For my Fallen – Dr Jeremy Fisher

On this corner the cops

drew their batons and charged;

right here they knocked John down,

broke his arm, smashed his nose.

Four of them tackled Ken

over near the flower box

though that wasn’t there then.

It was all cold concrete

winter windswept; June in

Sydney is a bleak month.

They tossed Ken like a bag of sand

not a nineteen year old boy

still with fuzz on his face.

He bounced into the paddy wagon,

screamed, lay on his back silent.

They bashed Peter right at this spot,

split his skull; down he went

blood streaming, body inert

but still they flipped him in

with Ken.

I ran then

I’m happy to confess.

Fear drove me but left me

in one piece, finger steady

rotary dialler ready.

My finger went to work

luring lawyers from their sleep

beckoning the few press

sympathetic to us

to take some heed of our fight.

Fifty-three of us were

locked in Darlinghurst gaol.

They cops knew they had won.

We will have no Anzac Day

for our defeat, for defeat it was.

We were savagely trampled,

bloodied, abused, then locked up, 

publicly condemned 

by the Premier no less

who called us terrorists,

our names printed in newspaper lists

as if we had no rights —

a key point in our fight,

an exposure of hypocrisy

hatred, homophobia, 

a word we inexorably

dragged onto the front page.

There are no memorials

for my fallen; the young and older

misfits who wanted nothing more

than the freedom to love each other.

They have left few traces

even here on the battlefield

landscaped several times

since we were surrounded

and attacked because

ironically

we would not stay hidden.

The courts dismissed the charges

but it was hardly justice

merely convenience.

The law still left us abominable

criminals (not quite snowmen)

for six more long years

by which time we were dying

though not of our wounds; something

else was killing the comrades,

blood-borne, thus invisible,

an enemy we could not have

foreseen unless we believed

the spin of the God doctors

who rejoiced at each of our deaths —

they were so full of brimstone

they had no room for Jesus.

There are no memorials

for my fallen; the young and older

misfits who wanted nothing more

than the freedom to love each other.

They will not grow old

as we who survive grow old

measuring out our days with

blood pressure medication

and days free of alcohol.

They are photographs,

grainy black and white, colour

sometimes – red berets and flags

on Redfern railway station –

already fading away.

Boys and boys, girls and girls

stroll arm in arm across

the urban battleground

sometimes kissing, oblivious

to the blood beneath their feet.

A police van cruises by

the cops’ eyes sharp on the beat.

Girls and girls, boys and boys

sometimes kissing, oblivious

that once they never could

hold each other close, kiss

on the concrete where once we stood

our ground and lost,

just like Anzacs.